The 2014 National League All-Star voting got plenty of things right with the elected starters, but that doesn't mean the roster isn't open to a healthy helping of criticism.
Fan voting isn't a perfect science—OK, it's not really a science at all—and there is often a brief lag time between when a player starts performing at an All-Star level and when he firmly entrenches himself in the public consciousness.
Every player elected to the roster is a talent worthy of consideration, and generally the fans are spot-on in their picks. However, there are still a few players who deserve some more love for the way they've played this season.
Let's break down the top NL players who deserved a second look from voters prior to the Midsummer Classic.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, Milwaukee Brewers
The St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina won the popularity contest at this position. He has six Gold Gloves and will be appearing in his sixth All-Star Game at Target Field. The 31-year-old's stats are just about as good as ever, but they pale in comparison to Jonathan Lucroy's numbers.
|Molina vs. Lucroy, 2014 Stats|
|Player||Games||Batting Avg.||On-Base %||Doubles||Home Runs||RBI|
What makes this snub even more painful is how much Lucroy has battled through just to get to Target Field.
In 2012, Lucroy was hitting .345 with five home runs and 30 RBI through May 27 before a hand injury kept him out until late July. He had another great offensive season as a catcher in 2013, belting 18 home runs and tallying 82 RBI on the season, but still received no love from the voters.
Molina can lean on his defensive chops in most arguments, but baseball author John Dewan notes that Lucroy is comparable in at least one aspect of the catching game:
Lucroy will enjoy his time rubbing elbows with the NL elite in the dugout, but if he keeps up the stellar plate appearances, he will be in full gear at All-Star Games for years to come.
Dee Gordon, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
It took some time for Dee Gordon to get comfortable at second base, let alone play at an All-Star level. He was a middling shortstop in the Dodgers organization and didn't play at second base in the major leagues until the 2013 season. He also had a lot of trouble hitting the ball, denying fans the chance to see his best talents.
Things have finally fallen into place for Gordon in 2014. His production at the plate has taken a huge leap forward from last season.
|Dee Gordon, 2013-2014 Stats|
|Season||Games||Batting Avg.||On-Base %||Hits||Doubles||RBI||Stolen Bases|
He's seeing the ball well and getting on base early and often in games. The Philadelphia Phillies' Chase Utley is the starter at second base and is having another fine season. The six-time All-Star is batting .286 with six home runs and 40 RBI, but he is a shell of his former self.
Gordon is fresh, young and exciting. He also has that one unteachable talent that is the envy of any athlete who lacks the gift: speed.
Gordon leads the league with 42 stolen bases and nine triples. He's one of those players who doesn't seem to need to get a read on pitchers; his fast feet will take care of everything. He's also found a mentor in Chone Figgins in L.A., via Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times:
"Figgins and Gordon work on their bunting together, often before most of their teammates show up at the stadium. Figgins talks to Gordon in the dugout during games, making sure his mind doesn't wander after a disappointing at-bat."
Utley is indeed a great second baseman, but Gordon's skills could wreak havoc in an All-Star Game. Just imagine him leading off with all those sluggers following up.
Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
Todd Frazier indeed deserved the nod at the hot corner over the Brewers' Aramis Ramirez, who seems to have been elected based on reputation rather than output this season.
|Frazier vs. Ramirez, 2014 Stats|
|Player||Games||Batting Avg.||On-Base %||Hits||Doubles||Home Runs||RBI|
Frazier is sixth among NL position players with a 3.6 WAR and fourth in home runs. Frazier has also demonstrated he's a rare blend of power and speed, chipping in with 13 stolen bases on the year.
Despite trailing in the voting at his position, Frazier was happy just to be in the conversation in the lead-up to the All-Star Game.
"I think it's really cool even to be considered,” he said, via C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I wish we had about two more weeks left. You never know, things can happen. Maybe we'll get the Cincinnati fans to keep going, keep pushing."
The fans' push wasn't good enough, but those around the league knew that this All-Star Game wouldn't be complete without Frazier's name on the roster.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.